Enhanced E. huxleyi carbonate counterpump as a positive feedback to increase deglacial pCO2sw in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific

Chiara Balestrieri*, Patrizia Ziveri, Michaël Grelaud, P. Graham Mortyn, Claudia Agnini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The modern Eastern Equatorial Pacific (EEP) Ocean is a high nutrient low chlorophyll (HNLC) upwelling region and a large oceanic source of carbon to the atmosphere. During the last deglaciation, the EEP played a major role in the outgassing of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from the upwelling surface water system of CO2-enriched deep-water masses originating from the Southern Ocean. The EEP upwelling system is also fertilizing the surface waters and enhancing the biological pump. Here we present data on the mass and calcification dynamics of the coccolithophore species Emiliania huxleyi spanning the last 30 ky at Site ODP 1238 (1°52.310′S, 82°46.934′W; 2203 m) in the EEP. Our results show an increased coccolith calcification degree during times of high pCO2 and low surface water pH conditions; this unexpected result is tentatively explained as related to changes in homeostasis equilibrium at the site of calcification and between the cell and the seawater environment. We estimated the E. huxleyi particulate inorganic to organic carbon ratio (PIC:POC) in order to detect changes in the carbonate counter-pump to carbon pump activity, which can act as either a positive or negative feedback to atmospheric CO2 modulating air-sea gas exchange. Our study indicates an enhanced coccolithophore biological pump during the last glacial that could have buffered, at least partially, the excess of pCO2atm via absorption into the ocean. Finally, during the last deglaciation, the enhanced carbonate counter pump was a major source of high pCO2sw in the EEP surface ocean.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106921
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2021


  • Carbon pump
  • Carbonate counter pump
  • Coccolithophores
  • Emiliania huxleyi
  • Equatorial pacific ocean
  • Last 30K years
  • Sea-water carbonate system


Dive into the research topics of 'Enhanced E. huxleyi carbonate counterpump as a positive feedback to increase deglacial pCO2sw in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this